Wednesday, 16 December 2009

This Wouldn't Happen at Westfield

Walking home past the swans bobbing on the Thames, laden with Christmas gifts, decorations, wrapping paper and mince pies I reminisced; that was Christmas shopping bliss. You must be thinking I am crazy, no? I had just spent three hours Christmas shopping at my local Barnes High Street and I had returned smiling.

Like everybody else in London, I left my Christmas shopping to the last minute; and my family Christmas lunch was tomorrow because we were going away next weekend. I prepared myself for a bustling high street- a rugby scrum of desperate, clawing and snatching people hungry for the perfect, last-minute gift. I imagined a traffic jam from a pile up of banged-up buggies, a twisted mess of plastic shopping bags and screaming children. I wouldn’t even dare take the car out today, not after last month’s traumatic ordeal in the Westfield car park.

As I got closer to the high street I could still hear the liquid dance of the Thames... where was the foreboding hum of busy shoppers?
The small independent gift shop I had in mind for teachers’ gifts for my son’s school had two tiny aisles and little jangly breakables hanging precariously from random shelves. I love these tiny shops but I wondered how much of a battering it would have received this Christmas.
To my surprise, there were no buggies in this store, only a handful of quiet customers and soft Christmas music. I breathed a sigh of relief and stepped into the cosy little gift store. I was surrounded by unique gifts and funky little knick-knacks. That is what I love about the local high street; eccentric, individual retailers where every gift is unique. I remember being at a function last week and seeing three women wearing the same gold leaf chain. I didn’t want the mass-produced product. Trusting in my local high street, I can be confident in knowing that my Christmas will be cracking with quirky presents.

I spent three magical Christmas hours shopping along Barnes High Street. I was greeted with smiles, mulled wine and local Christmas cheer. I walked to my own beat, not offensive, booming music. This is what Christmas is all about: coming together, family, friends and community. There were no queues and blind customer ‘service’; I felt like I was a part of a festive fellowship of people enjoying the local shopping experience at this special time of year.

So I urge you, take a walk down your local high street this Christmas- you will be surprised what you find, and will probably discover a little independent shop you never knew existed. For a calmer Christmas shopping experience- stay local.

Written by Lauren Ottaway

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